Plant for the colors of ruby red and blue-black, for sweet and tart tastes, for the rich musky medicine, and for their arching understory spread!
Hardy from Zones 3-8. 3-6 feet tall and wide.
Our Currants grow along the edges of pathways, under the light shade of forest gardens, in rainwater gardens and riparian borders. Currant can take sunlight and shade as long as it has decently moist soil. The varieties we grow are native to dark and damp woodlands of Europe and Asia, so we’re learning from them how we can locally adapt to offer food and medicine.
Black Currants (Ribes nigrum) were first cultivated in Russian monastery gardens in the 11th century, and they were widely planted in Britain during WWII because they have four times the Vitamin C as Oranges! They also have high concentrations of iron and antioxidants (twice as much as Bluberries). This nutritional power improves gut and kidney health and aids with circulatory and immune systems. Extracts have also been shown to reduce risk for diabetes, and the seed oil assists with inflammation. Fresh and dried leaves make hearty infusions and teas with lots of preventative qualities: anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antiviral, and antimicrobial. Red Currant (Ribes rubrum) has a lot of similar qualities, including a potent amount of Vitamin C, assistance with digestive health, iron for red blood cell production, and seed oil that can be used for cooking or making soaps for skin health. Red Currant also contains Vitamin K, which is necessary for maintaining bone calcium. Like other red fruits, this Currant has lycopene, a carotenoid that helps prevent heart disease and cancer. Red Currant tea ease symptoms for rheumatism and gout and regulates menstrual cycles, and gargling the tea aids in washing out mouth infections. Sugar in Red Currant is slowly absorbed into the blood stream, so you get the sweet benefit without the crash or spike.
Red and Black Currants both flower and fruit about the same time with berries that hang off the branches. The names rubrum and nigrum appropriately refer to the color of their respective fruit. Red Currants shine in small crimson clusters with a slightly sweet taste, and Black Currants can be a little more tart and aromatic. In fact, one of the best ways to tell the two apart is rubbing the leaf and bark and taking a deep whiff: Black Currant has a wonderfully musky smell that distinguishes it.
We mix Currants with other fruits in jams, smoothies, fruit leather, or add them to cider. The juice is extremely popular in Europe. We can also learn a lot from how indigenous tribes here have used the native Currant (Ribes triste), also called Swamp or Wild Redcurrant. The Inuit boil them into syrup and the Haudenosaunee and Ojibwe mash the fruit into small cakes to store or mix with cornbread. Blackfoot tribes have used the root to treat kidney diseases and discomfort from menstruation and menopause, while the Cree have used the fruit to help women get pregnant. The Upper Tanana in Alaska have used a stem decoction as a wash for sore eyes. Currant is an incredibly versatile plant, whether in Europe or North America!
We grow our Red and Black Currants from cuttings and stool layering.